US Whitewater > Texas > Devils River



Texas whitewater, Devils River

Val Verde county, SH 163 to Rough Canyon Marina section whitewater kayaking, rafting, and paddling information.


CLASS II+(IV)     47 miles
I have canoed the Devils to Amistad after putting in at Baker's Crossing. How far upstream from Baker's is the river navigable (Canoe or Kayak), and is there a place upstream from Baker's to put in? Says JHC

Anyone tell me if this trip can be made in a flat bottom boat. Says LS

While I read through this string, it's evident that both sides are truly passionate. It's unfortunate that this has to be hashed out all the time but
    it's necessary as these landowners have right to complain. I've travelled the Devils, over the past decade, no less than 150 days. It would be wonderful to put in at Bakers and meander down, maybe catching a nap on the only
shade tree on the river; to beach a craft and prepare a liesurely lunch. To camp without the hazard of a fire. This just isn't reality on this stream however. I was appalled early one morning to come around the bend, to see an unattended campfire burning and 2 canoes worth of crap strewn from here to kingdom come. I'm sure those guys collected wood off the landowners property and had one heck of a party the night before. (Do these people  
who ruin it for all of us realize the winds on that river?). So I see both sides. I have been approached, on portage, by landowners and managers that reminded me that while I was portaging around a rapid that I was trespassing, and I told them that I understood, that my safety was at risk and I'd be merrily on my way as soon as I could get in my boat. They were cool with that.

While I and my party always pack out more than we brought, not everyone does. Besides, most of what we pack out was lost in a tumble and I've lost a few prized possessions myself, to be found by someone else, I hope.

I don't know the answer but at the end of the day, it would be this; don't bicker, be friends. These landowners aren't stupid. They know abuse when they see it and for those of us that take care, well, I hope they don't mind if I take a rest. If you see abuse like that I mentioned above, turn 'em in! I remember one time my partner and I saw a bunch of smoke and beached, grabbed what we had to carry water and fought a fire in a canyon for half an hour. Were we trespassing, absolutely. Ever seen a 25 knot wind coming up that river? Put a fire with it. Now that's a good story, but the rest of the story - it wound up being a known, controlled burn! But the landowner was cool with our intent.

Well, I have another trip planned in a few weeks and hope to make some friends down there! CYA! Says DLW

I did it last week. I had an awesome time. Be ready it is physically demanding, specially with the predominant south wind. And be ready for some good walking and dragging your kayak. Bakers to mouth of the lake, 35 miles more or less 4 days. Thank you for all the info. and the map very useful. Says Elvis Medero

IZSM, you should re-read your statutes.

Section 21. 001(3) pertains to DEFINITION of a stream in Texas, and only that, it has nothing to do with activities allowed or on what part of the stream. Texas Court definition of points of lawful activities was decided from Dincans v. Keeran, 192 S. W. 603 (Tex. Civ. App. San Antonio 1917, no writ) recognized a public right to use the waters and shore line. In overturning the lower courtís decree for being too restrictive, the court stated:

[T]he trial courtís decree was too comprehensive [in that it] restrained appellants from the enjoyment of their lawful right to use the shore line of the navigable waters, which formed the western boundary of appelleesí land. ... Hunting, camping, and fishing are reasonable uses of the navigable waters and shore line.

This was re-affirmed twice in Diversion Lake Club v. Heath, 126 Tex. 129, 86 S. W. 2d 441, 445 (1935), stated:

Thus it is apparent that statutory navigable streams in Texas are public streams, and that their beds and waters are owned by the state in trust for the benefit and best interests of all the people, and subject to use by the public for navigation, fishing, and other lawful purposes, as fully and to the same extent that the beds and waters of streams navigable in fact are so owned and so held in trust and subject to such use.

Texas Attorney Generalís Opinion S 208 (1956) concluded that the general public is authorized to walk down the dry or submerged bed of a navigable stream even if its bed is privately owned by virtue of the Small Bill (Article 5414a, R. C. S. ) for the purpose of seining and fishing in water holes in the bed of the river. Such conduct was not a criminal trespass under the definition of the crime then in effect.

What this means is: Texas courts have recognized that a member of the public may engage in a variety of lawful activities along a navigable stream. Besides boating, persons may swim, float, walk, wade, picnic, camp, and (with a license) fish. Public use must be confined to the stream bed and, to a limited extent, the banks.

And locked in stone in 1926 by the Texas Supreme Court 's decision that trumps everything but Federal law in:

In Motl v. Boyd, 116 Tex. 82, 286 S. W. 458, 467 (1926), the Texas Supreme Court explained what a stream consists of:

A water course, river, or stream consists of a bed, banks, and a stream of water. ... The bed of a stream is that portion of its soil which is alternatively covered and left bare as there may be an increase or diminution in the supply of water, and which is adequate to contain it at its average and mean stage during an entire year, without reference to the extra freshets of the winter or spring or the extreme droughts of the summer or autumn. ... The banks of a stream or river are the water washed and relatively permanent elevations or acclivities at the outer lines of the river bed which separate the bed from the adjacent upland, whether valley or hill, and served to confine the waters within the bed and preserve the course of the river when they rise to the highest point at which they are still confined to a definite channel.

Since the stream is a navigable one, the elevations of land adjacent to its bed, which hold its navigable waters in place, and to which boats might be tied or anchored, and wharves or other instrumentalities of navigation attached, are its banks ...

In any Texas court, the Texas Supreme Court will be the utilized precedence the judge must observe over earlier statutes and lower court precedents.


What the landowners on the Devil's need to realize is that almost everyone that is kayaking or canoeing is going to take very good care of the river. In most cases better care than the landowners who allow their fertilizers and other contaminants into it.

One day someone who has the ability and inclination or enough money to pursue this in court on principle will lose, which will open the river up even more to what they do not like... More people on it. They should just behave like everyone else in the state.

Oh yeah, and regarding Spanish Law, to which some landowner's refer to; even though it probably is not in effect on any property in this area:

The civil law of Spain and Mexico, (and the early days of the Republic of Texas) recognized the right of a navigator to use the banks, even though privately owned, for various purposes associated with navigation. The civil law still applies to particular land grants. The permitted activities set out in law 6 of title 28 of the third Partida (quoted below) amount to what might be considered today as fairly substantial uses. It is difficult to imagine that a generally less intrusive use would be forbidden.

Law 6. That Every One may Make Use of Ports, Rivers, and Public Roads. --Rivers, ports, and public roads belong to all men in common; so that strangers coming from foreign countries may make use of them, in the same manner as the inhabitants of the place where they are. And though the dominion or property (scenario) of the banks of rivers belongs to the owner of the adjoining estate, nevertheless, every man may make use of them to fasten his vessel to the trees that grow there, or to refit his vessel, or to put his sails or merchandise there. So fishermen may put and expose their fish for sale there, and dry their nets, or make use of the banks for all like purposes, which appertain to the art or trade by which they live.

I looked that up too.
Says Says Me

Dear Paddler,
In reference to your note to 'land owner', your reference to the 'first cut-second cut' as it relates to the boundries seperating 'state property' from 'private property' are ostensibily incorrect. What is known as 'the meanders' or where the water 'touches the dry surface' is the boundry is described. There are two types of navigable streams exist in Texas: navigable in law and
navigable in fact. According to the Texas Natural Resources Code, a stream is considered navigable in law when it retains an average width of 30 feet from its mouth upward
[Section 21.001(3)]. According to Texas case law, a stream is considered navigable in fact when it can be used for the customary modes of trade and travel. The gradient boundary line determines where the stream bed ends
and private ownership begins. Briefly stated, the line is midway between the lower level of the water flow that just touches the cut bank and the higher level that just overtops
the cut bank. This line is known as the 'meanders' which is based upon the seasonal flow of the stream. In times of adequate rain-fall the stream bed would be higher and increase the width of the state property line, in times of short rain fall the reverse is true. The line is not apparent on most Texas streams. (I did look it up). In terms of the complaint of Mr. Landowner, I own land in Kerrville on the Guadalupe, and though I would never discourage portage, people seem to think it is okay to camp on my land, leave their beer cans, used diapers and trash, either on my property or in our stream bed. And as there are fewer of us than you, it would be thought prudent to be concerned, as so many of the non land owner type don't really care what they leave behind.

Thank you landowner, we know that. We also know where State of Texas property ends, and your private property begins. Apparently most of you landowners do not. Bear this in mind: we do not strive or intend to break the law. If we leave the area that is 1/2 way between the 1st and 2nd cut bank (Texas law--look it up) there is a darn good reason for it. What, do you think we are going to load up one of your cattle, and paddle away with it? As far as leaving stuff behind, I will bet that we leave an area cleaner than when we found it (at least I do). I'l bet the 'crap' you pick up has been washed down stream. Why are you intent on (to the point of opening fire on paddlers, this is well known) no one paddling the river? I hope you check this page, and respond. Says Paddler

The Devils River flows through private property on both sides. If you step out of the river and are caught you will be charged for trespassing. The precedent has been set in the courts. You must camp within the confines of the river banks. Says landowner

Devils River, SH 163 to Rough Canyon Marina road map
Printable road map with the put-in and take-out locations clearly marked.


Detailed Map

Stats for this river stretch

Local weather forecast

These outdoors activities are available near Devils River.
 Whitewater Near Devils River:
Devils River, Val Verde County, 12 miles away
      Class II+(IV) - 47 miles long (SH 163 to Rough Canyon Marina)
 Marinas Near Devils River:
Rough Canyon Marina, Del Rio , 13 miles away
Lake Amistad Resort & Marina, Del Rio , 18 miles away
 Hotels Near Devils River:
Comfort Inn & Suites, Del Rio , 24 miles away
Quality Inn & Suites Del Rio, Del Rio , 24 miles away
Holiday Inn Express & Suites DEL RIO, Del Rio , 25 miles away
Ramada Del Rio, Del Rio , 25 miles away
La Quinta Inn Del Rio, Del Rio , 25 miles away
 Campgrounds Near Devils River:
Devils River SNA, Comstock, 12 miles away
Amistad National Recreation Area - Rough Canyon, Del Rio, 13 miles away
Amistad National Recreation Area - Spur 406, Del Rio, 13 miles away
 Trails Near Devils River:
Seminole Canyon State Park Trail, Val Verde , 19 miles away
 Public Lands Near Devils River:
Amistad National Recreation Area, Del Rio - TX , 26 miles away
 Lakes Near Devils River
Amistad Reservoir, Val Verde , 19 miles away

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